Saturday, September 04, 2010

Johnny Howard ousted from Frogtown Football - Page 1 - News - Minneapolis - City Pages

Johnny Howard ousted from Frogtown Football - Page 1 - News - Minneapolis - City Pages: "Twenty years ago, the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul was a very different place than it is today. Thinly disguised brothels and crack dens brought down the value of entire blocks. Gangs patrolled the streets, charging kids a toll to walk on sidewalks they claimed as their turf, remembers Tony Schmitz, former editor of the Frogtown Times Newspaper.
'That was kind of the height of the crack epidemic around here,' says Schmitz. 'Your kid's school bus would show up and there'd be kids selling crack on the corner.'
Howard was among the loudest voices for change. He organized the Thomas-Dale Block Club, an aggressive version of a neighborhood watch program. Hundreds of community members protested the known brothels and crack houses until the city could no longer ignore them.
'That was really a critical time for how this neighborhood was going to go,' says Schmitz, an original member of the block club. 'It finally got to the point where we could go to the cops and say we need more policing there, and they would listen.'
It was Howard's idea to create a place for kids to go after school. He merged two dwindling community football teams into one program, which he called the Frogtown Football program. He poured thousands of dollars of his own money into equipment and jerseys.
The program was an immediate draw to kids around the neighborhood. Within the first few years, more than 150 kids played for Frogtown Football. For many who joined, playing football with Howard after school was an alternative to the streets, says District 7 Planning Council executive director Tait Danielson-Castillo.

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